ATC-pie FAQ

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This page is a collection of questions frequently asked (at least twice) about ATC-pie. It is a good idea to search through it before repeating a question on the forum or anywhere.

How do I start anywhere else than bl*ody KSFO?

Use a command line argument: ./ATC-pie.py ICAO

The way to do this from a graphical desktop is system-dependant, but there is always a way. Otherwise, open a shell terminal to type the command above.

Why am I not seeing this aircraft on my radar? I know it is there: the pilot is sending chat messages and/or it is visible on the online live map...

You only see an aircraft on your screen if your radar picks up a transponder signal from it. The two following cases will therefore prevent you from seeing a connected aircraft:

  • The aircraft is out of radar range, i.e. under the radar floor (minimum signal pick-up height) or too far out. Open the General settings dialog, check the NM range setting and set the floor to "SFC" to pick up all signals.
  • Its onboard transponder is turned off; see ATC-pie video tutorial 1. You should tell the pilot to switch it on. Alternatively, you can switch on the primary radar system if you want to see all aircraft's positions, or activate the "radar cheat mode" if you want to go the radical way (tutorial 3). NB: If the aircraft model does not support the transponder feature, it will be simulated by ATC-pie according to the fallback mode you have selected in the settings dialog. A non-equipped aircraft and a zero fallback mode will therefore make the aircraft invisible as well.

What is the strip exchange server? Which one to use?

In FlightGear games, the strip exchange feature allows you to hand over strips to ATCs who are connected to the same server and within 180 NM from your position. The public server currently open for general multi-player use is http://h2281805.stratoserver.net/FgFpServer. To hand over a strip, drag it from its rack and drop it on the chosen callsign in the ATC handover list. Publicise your frequency so that ATCs around know what to tell pilots for them to contact you!

What nickname should I use for the FlightGear strip exchange server? Where to create an account?

This feature is not linked to any identification process; just choose any name you would like to be recognised by. It will appear in a tooltip over your callsign in the handover list of ATCs who will connect near enough to see you. In a sense, this feature is more social than technical, but makes sense as typical ATC callsigns remain mostly anonymous over MP. Use this field so that other players can identify you.

Can I draw SID and STAR procedures on the radar?

Yes, and virtually anything else, using background images and hand drawings. To learn how:

  • see the corresponding user guide section;
  • read the resources/bg-img/Notice file;
  • examine the packaged KSFO example.

How do I assign SIDs and STARs to aircraft?

This question is asked quite a lot more than it is relevant to a real controller's task... What people seem to be after is a way to organise inbound traffic on arrival, while managing different approach paths. If you are certain this is what you want, you can always freely comment your strips with any information you want to save. But it is probably not.

If you like to use STARs for your arrivals and want to distinguish multiple approach paths you are in charge of, the best thing to do is to stack your inbound strips on different racks named after your STARs. Racks are indeed not only a way of categorising traffic, but above all meant for efficient traffic sequencing. Every rack represents its own sequence of ordered aircraft, which is perfectly suited to control separate approach paths in parallel. With this technique, placing a strip on a STAR-named rack basically serves as the "assignment" itself, like one would use runway-specific racks at large airports to keep track of separate landing sequences. You can even set a custom colour to each rack for quick identification on the scope.

If you did not mean on arrival specifically but want to plan routes during flight or prior to departure, you are probably looking for something you should not be doing. A route is a list of waypoints and instructions to follow en route between the two end airfields. Hopefully pulled straight from an existing flight plan prior to departure, a flight route is copied onto a strip, then modified as the flight progresses and passed along with handovers. Standard departure and arrival procedures (SIDs and STARs) can be referred to in those routes, but should not contain full procedure names like FUBAR1A, since those depend on the active RWYs and might change any time before flying the final STAR leg. Routes ending with a STAR should rather end with "... FUBAR STAR" for instance, meaning that waypoint FUBAR is an entry point from which a published STAR must be followed. The keyword "STAR" here is therefore a mere specification for the last route leg. Similarly, routes of the form "SID DUMMY ..." specify their first leg as a standard departure to the first waypoint DUMMY. "SID" and "STAR" keywords are recognised by ATC-pie and accounted for in the second line of the radar contact info box when appropriate (see feature note on routes).

One last meaningful wish regarding this question is for an easy reference to the assignment in text chat communications. Firstly, using racks the way suggested above, you could simply use the $rack alias which is substituted by the name of the rack on which the current strip selection is stacked.

Otherwise secondly, if the selected strip's route is found to contain "SID"/"STAR" keywords placed in the first/last route leg specifications, text aliases $wpsid and $wpstar will respectively expand to the first/last en-route waypoints of that route. For example, assuming route "SID DUMMY more route spec FUBAR STAR" in the selection, $wpsid will be replaced with "DUMMY" and $wpstar with "FUBAR". Now if you specifically want to assign a full procedure name like FUBAR1A to a contact and refer to it in a generic text chat message, include a line "sid=FUBAR1A" in your strip comments. It will pop up with the strip mouse-over tooltip, and create a custom $sid alias that will automatically be expanded in your sent messages when that strip is selected.

FGCom radio is not working. What is going on?

There can be a variety of reasons, all of them to rule out before reporting a bug in the program. Start a single ATC-pie instance and try the echo test (System menu). If it works, you may skip directly to item 3 below.

  1. Bad FGCom setting
    Verify the path to your FGCom executable in the system settings, which should point to the right executable file under resources/fgcom and suit your operating system (see Notice file). Four versions are initially packaged with ATC-pie: Linux64, Linux32, Mac, Win32.
  2. FGCom server down
    This can happen, unfortunately even for up to a few days. Check for responses from the server, e.g. with ping fgcom.flightgear.org.
  3. FGCom subprocess error
    If the server is up (responding to ping), check for errors in the logged FGCom output files in the output directory.
  4. Port mess-up on your side
    If you are running multiple instances of ATC-pie, make sure you have no more than one radio box on every port. In any case, verify you only choose available ports that are not already in use by your operating system for example. Typically, default ports (from 16661 counting up) work fine, but you will have to change them for parallel instances, using the --fgcom-ports command line option (see section: starting the program). To check what port a radio box is using, see its "on/off" button tooltip.

Tower view is not starting. The menu option is ticked but nothing happens.

Ruling out that FlightGear is not installed at all, your system path settings are probably wrong. From a terminal, find the right command to start FlightGear and enter it as FlightGear executable from the System menu. Do not add options of any kind; they will be taken care of internally. You may have to enter a FlightGear root directory as well, especially if you have the program files installed somewhere unexpected. Your entries will be saved after that.

Why is my tower in the middle of the sea, and aircraft water landing/floating?

You are missing the FlightGear scenery data for your location, or ATC-pie does not know where it is. Check out the Tower viewing feature note in this article.

Why is the learning curve so steep? People would use your program more if you did/provided [...] often followed with (you must understand that) this is not VATSIM!

We do have a wish list and will consider any feature or help request. However, though it has a few cheats, ATC-pie has always choosen realism as a criterion for implementation and design, over the mere incentive of converting otherwise happy users of other programs. It is a good thing that different philosophies and work flows are available out there, and there would be much less interest in having them all copy each other, fighting over users rather than understanding that not all of them wish for the same game experience. If serious simulation or learning new skills sound like threats to fun for you, you have a perfectly valid reason not to opt for ATC-pie.